Cabo San Lucas Bounces Back

IMG_1534_2Flying into Los Cabos International airport, one doesn’t see too much damage from hurricane Odile that hit Baja California Sur on September 13, 2014. However, when you drive towards the hotels and lavish resorts heading towards the Cabo San Lucas Marina, the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico destroyed almost every building with its 125 mph winds.

An estimated 92% of the population was left without power or water. It was the biggest electrical disaster in the history of Mexico, according to the Mexican Electric Company (CFE). There were approximately 30,000 tourists in the Baja during the storm. President Enrique Peña Nieto visited Los Cabos three times within two weeks after Odile hit to approve the rebuilding of homes, increase employment to rebuild Cabo, and repair the infrastructure throughout Baja Sur.

One of the first resorts to open after months of repairing the damage was the Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos. The resort IMG_1352officially opened to guests on November 23, 2014 with new paint, furniture, a new lobby, spa, restaurants and landscape. “There was glass everywhere,” said staff member Pablo, as he took us to our room 1117 during Valentine’s weekend. “I stayed with the guests in the bunker room for days. We had beds, food and a large bathroom for everyone,” said Pablo.

Many hotels had backup generators, water and food supplies for guests, but their reserves grew thin as they cared for tourists stranded after the storm. As soon as the airport was deemed safe and available for flights, the guests left for home and crews worked 24/7 to get the Fiesta Americana resort up and running by Thanksgiving, a very busy season in Cabo San Lucas. DSC_0456

The Fiesta Americana has 249 guest rooms, seven restaurants, five bars and five swimming pools. The resort offers an all-inclusive option for guests that includes food and beverages. The friendly staff were attentive and catered to all the guests needs cheerfully. They were pleased that the resort was full again.

January through March February is an ideal time to visit Cabo to see the migration of the Pacific Gray Whales. Females arrive in the warm lagoons of the Gulf of California to give birth to their young. Every day we looked out along the coastline to see whales spouting water from their blowholes, breaching, splashing, and slapping the water with their tails. Usually there were at least one or two whale-watching boats following close behind.DSC_0494

We had a routine each day. Our mornings began with a sit down breakfast at the Peninsula restaurant overlooking the ocean. For lunch we would have a light snack after snorkeling and swimming in the pool. By sunset, we got ready for an early dinner.

The first night we dined at the handsome La Bodega Steakhouse at the Fiesta Americana for fresh fish specialities and steaks.

The second night we drove into town to eat at the The Office, perhaps the most famous spot on Playa Medano in Cabo San Lucas. It suffered damage from Odile, yet opened on October 1, 2014.

The next night we enjoyed Mexican cuisine at the beautiful Hacienda Beach Club & Residences along Medano Beach. The resort was IMG_1399closed for repairs for about five weeks after Odile hit. We learned from a staff member, that what helped save all of the windows in the elegant restaurant were hurricane protectors that were purchased and installed days before the storm.

Driving back to the airport to fly home, we noticed that every resort North of the Fiesta Americana were still closed to guests while being repaired. Many restaurants, bars, and shops displayed, “We are now open” signs to alert visitors and locals. Tours and attractions are reopening by the dozens every day. Cabo San Lucas is ready for tourists to visit and enjoy their sun, warm water, whales, beaches, restaurants, resorts, activities and shops. Power, water, internet, telephone and cell service have been back to normal for months.

Cabo has bounced back and is now better than ever.

This article was published in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY. It was also shared in the Cabo Times Daily News.

Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa

IMG_0685Walking into the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, we were pleasantly surprised with its face lift. The exterior has been painted in the green tones, while inside was a table filled with a variety of cheese, crackers, fruit and chips for guests to enjoy in the beautiful lobby area or sitting by a roaring fire.

Exploring Lake Arrowhead last month, we didn’t see a lot of snow at the elevation of a little over 5,100. We had to drive to Running Springs to see a sprinkling of icy white covering.

The lake was calm, and the boat docks were empty of boats during the winter months, except for the double-deck Lake Arrowhead Queen, a stately 60-seat paddle wheeler. She runs year- round from her Lake Arrowhead Village dock, cruising next to forested pine trees and million- dollar homes on the IMG_0732sparkling blue lake.

Guests onboard learn about the fascinating history of the lake, such as the area was originally called Little Bear Valley until the Arrowhead Lake Company bought the area in 1920 and changed the name to Lake Arrowhead. Many of the homes around the lake were once owned or still are owned by famous movie and television stars.

Over 100 movies and television episodes have been filmed at this location to replicate the setting of Canada, Switzerland or Alaska.
The first film – The Romance Of The Bar O, starring Bronco Billy Anderson, was shot in 1911. Bing Crosby, Ethel Barrymore, and a young Natalie Wood made the movie, Just For You, in Lake Arrowhead in 1952. Bob Hope, Frankie Avalon and Tuesday Weld filmed, I’ll Take Sweden here in 1965.

IMG_0687The Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa is now a Marriott, Autograph Collection, known for its upper upscale and luxury independent hotels. These properties are located in dynamic and preferred destinations worldwide. Each one is unique with its own distinct perspective.

Autograph is an appropriate designation for the Lake Arrowhead Resort, because the movie star history.

The property is the finest accommodations in the So Cal mountains, featuring 162 guest rooms and 11 luxurious suites with many rooms offering lake views with mountain-lodge touches.

In the lobby area are photos of many of the stars who made movies nearby.

Most of the guest rooms have outdoor balconies or patios with two chairs and a table, ideal for sitting out with a cup of coffee in the morning or glass of wine at sunset. The queen-furnished rooms have two queen beds and a shower/tub combination, while all king-furnished rooms are designed with a glass-enclosed walk-in shower. All the suites have bathrooms with a large walk-in shower and a separate deep-soaking tub.

There is a full-service spa offers massage, manicures and pedicures, facials and fitness classes. Outside is a large pool and hot tub IMG_0695overlooking the pine trees and lake.

The onsite restaurant Bin 189, offers tree and lake views while guests enjoy a seasonal wine inspired menu.

Today the Lake Arrowhead Village is the area’s main commercial gathering spot for both visitors and locals. There are a variety of boutiques, discount outlet stores, restaurants, and a Stater Bros. supermarket. During the summer, the Village offers free summer concerts on the center stage from May through September each Friday and Saturday night.

Families are attracted to the Family Go-Carts next to the beach, McKenzie water skiing school, and a playground for ages 5-12.

IMG_0731The Village celebrates many special events throughout the year- Easter, the 4th of July, Oktoberfest and Christmas.
It’s an ideal weekend getaway to enjoy the seasons, the fresh mountain air and beautiful lake views.

To reserve a room at The Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa – Marriott Autograph Collection, call (909) 336-1511 or log onto http://www.lakearrowheadresort.com.

This article was published in the February 2015 issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

NOLA Cuisine in Downtown LA – Preux & Proper

IMG_0906I was sad to see Casey Lane’s gastropub, Parish close last year, because it was a fun spot to gather with friends in downtown LA. Guests walked upstairs to the main dining area to order Lane’s grilled 16 oz. Niman Ranch, bone-in, beef rib-eye marinated in a chimichurri sauce with warm caramelized figs. The waitstaff sure built up their leg muscles walking up and down the stairs from the kitchen to the dining room.

The beautiful, two-story Flatiron building didn’t stay vacant for too long, at the corner of Spring and Main. The owners of Hollywood’s New Orleans-style bar and restaurant, FiveOFour, Joshua Kopel and Mark Egland took over the building and made some renovations.

They hired Rebel Design Group known for their innovative hospitality work. Downstairs they created a lively bar serving frozen slush-style daiquiri machines, Punch bowls that serve four to six guests with flavors that include lemon smash, blackberry honey sour and drunken watermelon. Guests walk up to the counter for creative cocktail service and stay to socialize with friends and other guests.

Upstairs is another bar and sit down table service. The decor is a little New Orleans and a little Restoration Hardware. Wood floors below white paned floor to ceiling windows. Black banquette seating with white walls and boxed mirrors decorate the room. The ceiling is exposed with electrical wiring and wood beams.IMG_0909_2

Honoring New Orleans cuisine, the owners of Preux & Proper hired the talented chef Michael Ruiz, who cooked at Cobras & Matadors and the Morrison in Atwater Village.

Both Kopel and Egland didn’t like the idea of servers and busboys running up and down the stairs with hot plates and empty dishes. They felt it created an accident bound to happen, so they took installed two dumbwaiters to deliver Ruiz’s food from the kitchen up to the second floor oyster bar area in seconds.

Looking over the menu, we met our delightful server Jessica. I started my NOLA culinary adventure with a mint julep daiquiri served in a white Styrofoam cup with a straw. It wasn’t too sweet and very refreshing.

IMG_0905_2My husband sipped the pretty West Side cocktail with Grey Goose vodka, lime, Orgeat, cucumber, mint and angostura bitters. Both went well with the lightly fried smoked shrimp beignets served with a preserved lemon tartar sauce. They were filled with lot’s of shrimp pieces and fun to pop in our mouth.

On the share plates section they also offer a muffaletta board with cured meats, cheese, olive, fig jam and grilled bread. Guests get to make their own muffaletta creation.

Couples sitting near us were drinking moonshine-based cocktails, while enjoying crispy frog legs with chilies and coriander seeds, and a dish called debris hash brisket with belly potatoes and a bacon-onion jam with a soft egg.

The duo sitting right next to us remarked that the crab cakes had too much homny and crispy black corn and not enough crab flavor.
Of course this New Orleans-style restaurant has Po’ Boys. At Preux & Proper, they have a fried oyster Po’ Boy and lobster Po’ Boy. IMG_0916We selected the lobster served on a Bread Bar bun. It lacked big hunks of lobster and was more like a smoother lobster salad with a avocado-remoulade with a touch of hot sauce.

Almost everything on the menu goes well with the slightly sweet and tart pickles with sliced red peppers. The also make crunchy Cajun corn nuts that offer a kick and go well with cold craft beer.

My favorite dish was the heavenly warm kale and quinoa with shaved parmesan, chopped almonds and a dazzle of sherry. It was delicious.

We ended the evening with a satisfying slice of pecan pie bar with with Jameson ice cream.

Jessica told us the owners want to bring more of the excitement of Bourbon Street nightlife to downtown L.A. with themed events and music. They are hoping to attract Saints fans during football seasons.

The restaurant opens at 4 p.m. daily for happy hour and dinner service begins at 6 to 11 p.m. The bars stay open until 2 a.m. daily. Chef Mike Ruiz is planning lunch and weekend brunch service to be offered soon. $$ 840 S. Spring St. (213)896-0090.

This article was published in the February 18, 2015 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Oscar Buzz: Wolfgang Puck Collaborates With Sterling Wines

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Master Chef Wolfgang Puck returns to prepare this year’s Governors Ball, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences official post-Oscar celebration. This elite party immediately follows the 87th Oscars ceremony on Sunday, February 22.

The Ball invites 1,500 guests that includes the Oscar winners and nominees, as well as the show presenters and telecast participants.

Wolfgang Puck and Matt Bencivenga, chef partner of Wolfgang Puck Catering have created a menu of more than 50 imaginative dishes from bite-size hors d’oeuvres to stellar desserts. Some of his signature small plates include a lobster BLT; chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles; crispy artichokes with a citrus-chili gremolata, beet latkes with pastrami duck and apple mustard and slices of his famous pizzas.

Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining and pastry chef Jason Lemonnier, along with Kamel Guechida and Della Gossett are preparing elegant desserts that include coffee Oscar lollipops; peanut butter and jelly lollipops; violet creme brûlée with a blackcurrant jelly and Puck’s traditional 24k gold chocolate Oscars.

Sterling Vineyards Wines

Wolfgang Puck and Alison Rodriguez from Sterling Vineyard

Wolfgang Puck and Alison Rodriguez from Sterling Vineyards

Founded in 1964 by Sir Peter Newton, a British Knight and Oxford scholar. Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley is modeled after a Greek Monastery.

The lucky party revelers will enjoy the exclusive, custom-made Sterling Vineyards Limited Edition Gold Standard Reserve White and Sterling Vineyards Limited Edition Red Carpet Reserve Red. They will also serve Sterling Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The wines were chosen by Alison Rodriguez to pair with the dishes prepared by Master Chef, Wolfgang Puck. She starts working and selecting wines 6 to 8 months before the Big Day.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Photo by Jill Weinlein

The Gold Standard wine pairs nicely with Puck’s Dover Sole with fennel, chili and orange miso vinaigrette. It’s silky with bright grapefruit, pineapple and pear. This wine also goes well with Puck’s smoked salmon Oscar matzo statue and fresh seafood platters.

The Red Carpet Reserve pairs well with his Wagyu short ribs with hay-smoked kabocha squash puree and his mini-American Wagyu burgers with aged cheddar and a remoulade sauce. The Red Carpet Wine offers exotic spiciness and complex flavors of black cherry, plum and cocoa and a velvety finish.

Wolfgang Puck is the Disneyland of Food. Sterling Vineyard Wines is the ideal pairing.

Watch the 87th Oscars ceremony on Sunday, February 22.

Anti-Valentine’s Day Dining Venues

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Del Frisco’s Grille Red Velvet Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich

Don’t stay home during Valentine’s Day – Go out and party on “Anti-Valentine’s Day.”

Plan Check Kitchen + Bar has three locations in Los Angeles.
Since you won’t be kissing anyone, indulge and live it up with the five onion burger with roasted onion spread, pickled onion, onion sprouts, fried onions, schmaltz onion, and melty Swiss. The modern American eatery offers the anti-Valentine’s Day crowd with a terrific a’ la carte menu including a super spicy chicken sandwich, wine lover truffle burger with a red wine reduction, a miso glazed salmon kale Caesar and finish with druncken bread pudding with white Brandy hard sauce. Who knows you might meet a future mate. 1800 Sawtelle Blvd.(310)444-1411, 351 N. Fairfax Ave.(323)591-0094 and 1111 Wilshire Blvd. (213)403-1616.

Singles Unite at Soleto back12_main

On Friday, Feb. 13 and Saturday, Feb. 14, the Southern Italian trattoria offers cocktail specials include endless Kir Royale for $15 per person, or an exclusive “Drink the Bar” offer including a cocktail, flight of 3 wines, and a Kir Royale for $25 per person. Menu selections include Italian flatbreads with prosciutto and burrata, sirloin a la Puglia or seared shrimp with charred cauliflower and raspberry with Mascarpone cream and pistachios. 801 S. Figueroa St.(213)622-3255.

HOLLYWOOD

ANTI-Valentine’s Day at Five0Four Hollywoodf505fc_5d531946814849848b37b9fbb90134e7.png_srz_209_194_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srz

Come to the Shred Your Ex event on Valentine’s Day – basically bring in a picture of your ex, shred it in front of the bartender and receive your complimentary shot! Bottoms up!! 6541 Hollywood Blvd. #102. info@five0four.com (323)960-0224.

The Sixth Annual Edwardian Ball
In Los Angeles at Hollywood’s beautiful, historic Fonda Theatre a special Feb. 14 edition of “My Gorey Valentine” offers a non-Hallmark experience. It’s dark, elegant, and a sexy alternative with a blend of ballroom dancing, live music, riveting stage shows, DJs and dancing, couture vending, absinthe cocktails and alluring sideshows. Drink specials from Hendrick’s Gin & Raff Distillerie featuring absinthe cocktails and a hot food menu is available from The Blue Palms Brewhouse. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the event ends at 2 a.m. To buy tickets, go to http://www.ticketfly.com/event/750879-edwardian-ball-los-angeles-hollywood/ 6126 Hollywood Blvd.

VENICE AND SANTA MONICA

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Chaya Venice Brunch
Chaya Venice is hosting a Broken Hearts Brunch to celebrate the morning-after Valentine’s Day on Feb. 15. You can come in your pajamas. Specialty brunch menu items will be served and guests can enjoy $1 oysters while they sip champagne, punchbowls or specialty cocktails and listen to a live DJ. Brunch hours 11 a.m. through 3 p.m. 110 Navy Street, Venice, (310) 396-1179.

foodDEL FRISCO’S GRILLE SANTA MONICA
For the naysayers, the Grille is offering a $25 “Eat Your Heart Out” prix-fixe brunch menu for Sunday, Feb 15. The menu includes a Not-So-Sweet Screwdriver or Sangria carafe paired with fan-favorite brunch items with a twist, such as the Friendzone Fried Chicken and Waffles. Call 310-395-7333 for reservations. 1551 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica.

Venice Beach’s Hotel Erwin – BARLO KITCHEN + COCKTAILSIMG_1625_slider

Anti-Valentine’s Day menu at Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails all weekend. Barlo’s Anti-Valentine’s Day menu features items like the Beef Heart Tartare, “Tears and Taragon,” “Vegan, Gluten Free and Alone” polenta and more items for the Singles Awareness community. 1697 Pacific Ave. Venice Beach, CA 90291.

securedownload-11PLAYA DEL REY

If you are flying solo stuff your face and drink your sorrows at Bacari PDR’s Anti- Valentine’s Day for Singles with Happy hour from 5-11 p.m. All small plates (excluding seasonal menu items) will be $6 and specialty cocktails, like the “Love Me Tinder” made with a spicy infused vodka, grapefruit and lime juice, dry curacao, fallernum liqueur, and cranberry and lime bitters, will be $8. Guests can also drown their sorrows in a $20 open bar all-nighter, which includes 90 minutes of AYCD red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, sangria, and house beer. 6805 South Vista Del Mar Lane, Playa del Rey. (310)439-2100.

 

 

 

dineMB in Manhattan Beach

logoManhattan Beach celebrates its second year with ten participating restaurants starting January 25 through January 30. Each participating restaurant offers a pre-fixe dinner menu that includes an appetizer, entrée and a dessert for $30, $40 or $50 per person. Here is a list of some of the participating restaurants:

1. The Strand House is offering a dineMB menu with unobstructed ocean and the Manhattan Beach pier views. 117 Manhattan Beach Blvd. (310) 545-7470.

2. The Rockefeller Crafthouse is offering a $30 dinner by Executive Chef Cody Diegel from Sunday January 25 – Friday January 30. Guests choose one appetizer, one entree and either a hot chocolate chip cookie +ice cream or vanilla crème brûlée or chocolate pots de creme dark chocolate custard with whip cream. It’s available at both the Hermosa Beach & Manhattan Beach locations. 1209 255514_112694085485430_106259519462220_126159_1623814_nHighland Ave. (310) 545-5810 and 422 Pier Ave. (310) 372-8467.

3. FISHBAR is offering a $30 dinner during that features an appetizer, entree and dessert. Entrees include Mesquite grilled salmon, Mahi Mahi Mediterranean and Chicken Piccata. 3801 Highland Ave. (310) 796-0200.

4. Petros offers a Petros Hellenic California Cuisine Pre-Fixe Menu Dinner for $40.00 per person. Starters include Avgolemono – a thick and warm egg, lemon juice, chicken and rice soup or a Market salad. Next order from the appetizer section a personal veggie pizza or spanakopita with spinach, dill, green onion and Feta cheese. Entrees include a lamb sandwich or grilled salmon. Finish with a dessert of apple bread pudding with chocolate mousse. 451 Manhattan Beach Blvd. B110 (310) 545-4100.

photo-35. Lido di Manhattan is celebration dineMB with a multi-course $30 dinner menu. Choose a first course or tomato soup, Caesar salad or calamari. Next, select pesto gnocchi, chicken Marsala or lemon herb crusted salmon. For dessert the offerings include Tiramisu or a gluten-free chocolate mousse cup or vanilla bean creme brule. Manhattan Marketplace, 1550 Rosecrans Ave. (310) 536-0730.

 

PERCH – French Cuisine with Rooftop Views of LA

IMG_0328My friends dining with us asked, “Is the restaurant Perch named after a fish or branch for a bird?” As the door opened and we walked up to the reception table, it became obvious Perch is a lovely elevated spot with spectacular views of Los Angeles.

Sitting at a table on the outside patio with glass walls or near a blazing fireplace puts one in a romantic or festive mood. String lights enhance the ambiance, while outdoor heaters keep the patios warm, even on the cold LA winter nights.

Even though the temperature was in the 40s, we sat outside near the back corner on whicker couches with a wood coffee table for dining. Nearby, the Ben Ross three-piece jazz band entertained guests. Below was Pershing Square with palm trees aglow in red, green and blue lights and an outdoor ice-skating rink framed by skyscrapers. Beyond were sparkling lights all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The menu by Chef Gerardo Benitez features hors-d’oeuvres, small plates and entrees with a French flair. The bar makes specialty cocktails named Penicillin, My Fair Lady and Hemingway on the Beach. There is quite a bar scene here, especially after 9 p.m. All guests must be 21 years old when the restaurant transforms into a social night time destination.

We started with a French tradition, a bubbly Kir Royal. After a toast, we ordered two appetizers, the Ahi Tuna Tartar and grilled IMG_0330octopus. The tartar was served with crispy wonton triangles and seasoned with a ginger soy vinaigrette. The octopus was heightened with Vaudovan, a blend of spices that is a French derivative of an Indian curry masala with shallots and garlic. It arrives with a small fennel citrus salad, juicy Campari tomatoes and dollop of crème fraiche.

For entrees, my husband ordered the tender flat iron steak with a mellow bordelaise sauce. It was served with gooey truffle cheese fries. My order of pan roasted salmon was a generous piece of moist and pink fish resting on a bed on flavorful smoked eggplant puree and vegetables Provencal with tomatoes and onions. Artichoke chips gave this dish texture and crunch.

Others at our table ordered the sliced pan roasted chicken supreme with a savory chicken gravy. It’s served with Chef Gerardo’s signature mushroom risotto that is enriched with parmesan and mascarpone cheese.

Also delivered to our table was a bowl of gnocchi with thick, soft dough dumplings covered in a basil pesto, crème fraiche and finished with tender market squash.

IMG_0336Perch offers Les Petits Plus side dishes, and we ordered a few. The Brussels Sprouts with bacon, parmesan, and sherry vinaigrette paired nicely with our entrees, as did the cauliflower dish with a sprinkling of almonds, Vaudovan spices, citrus aioli, and brown butter. Both were large portions that could be shared with others.

True to a fine French restaurant, Perch does serve a delicious chocolate pot de creme made with Valrhona chocolate custard, strawberries and blueberries and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

I asked our server for their brunch menu. What a great spot for a birthday brunch or bridal shower. The menu listed an assortment of scones, muffins and croissants served with honey butter and jam.

Entrees include French toast, smoked salmon Benedict, crab Benedict, shrimp Scampi, and the Perch burger served on a brioche bun.

Champagnes start at $34 up to $200 a bottle. You may build your own mimosa or Bellini with an additional $5 carafe of orange juice or peach puree.

For night owls, Perch offers a late-night limited menu on Sunday through Wednesday from 11p.m. to 12 a.m. and Thursday throughIMG_0337 Saturday from 11p.m. to 1a.m. Perch offers a variety of live entertainment nightly and during the Champagne brunch.
The restaurant appeals to all types for people from couples out for a romantic dinner, to friends gathered together for drinks and a meal. Bring out of town guests here at sunset to show off our magnificent city. It’s a destination spot that won’t leave you disappointed.

Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and at 5 p.m. dinner is served. On weekends, Perch opens at 11 a.m. for brunch and later dinner service. Live music and lively bar scene keeps this place open until 2 a.m. during the weekend. $$ 448 S. Hill St. (213)802-1770.

This article was published in the January 15, 2015 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

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